2015-16 SOUND TIGERS SEASON IN REVIEW
The 2015-16 season was a successful one for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, marking the 15th season of hockey at Harbor Yard. The season also saw the first playoff berth for the Sound Tigers in four years, with their sixth-highest point total in team history.
There were plenty of key moments throughout the season and we’ll look back at a lot of them over the course of the offseason. This article serves as an introduction to that and a quick overview of the 2015-16 season as a whole.
The 2015-16 season started with a bang, featuring the best start in team history with five straight wins. Bridgeport blew their opponents out of the water during the first five games, outscoring teams 23-10.
Opening weekend saw scores of 4-1 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and a 6-1 blasting of the St. John’s IceCaps. The Sound Tigers scored five goals in the third period of their win over St. John’s, the season-high for goals in a period that stood from Game 2 all the way until the end of the season. This hot start put them atop the Eastern Conference standings and helped them make it into the playoffs later in the season.
The Sound Tigers went 9-6 this year when going past regulation time, but went 5-0 at home during the five-minute three-on-three overtime period. The first overtime win came on an Alan Quine breakaway against Utica back on November 1 and the final win came on….an Alan Quine breakaway against Portland on March 19.
Sandwiched in between were overtime winners by Joe Whitney, Taylor Beck and Mike Halmo, all coming in the month of January. Bridgeport’s overtime heroics helped propel them to the postseason later in the year, getting road winners from Bracken Kearns, Jesse Graham, Andrew Rowe and Connor Jones all either by a penalty shot or shootout.
Speaking of penalty shots, Bracken Kearns’ penalty shot winner ended one of the greatest comebacks in Sound Tigers’ history, with the team scoring two goals in the final 25 seconds to force overtime with the goaltender pulled back on March 4 at Providence. Many remember Justin Florek was the one to tie it with 10.8 seconds to go, but a lot of people forget Tanner Fritz scored his first career AHL goal with 24.9 seconds left to bring the Sound Tigers within one before Bridgeport won in overtime.
That game was relatively mild compared to the absolute craziness that was February 10 at Giant Center in Hershey. A makeup game of a snowed-out affair in late January, the game featured (but was not limited to): a penalty shot, two power play goals, a short-handed goal, three overtime penalties (including a goalie delay of game penalty), 13 goals and a partridge in a pear tree. Scott Gomez had four assists for Hershey but his team still lost, thanks to Parker Milner who came in during the second period and got the win.
A Turning Point
On January 17, the Sound Tigers lost their sixth straight game, just lost leading scorer Joe Whitney two days before to a season-ending injury and were sitting at .500 with a record of 19-19-2-1. Things were not looking up for the Sound Tigers, who had yet to win in regulation in 2016.
However, a pair of overtime winners on January 20 and 27 started an eight-game winning streak and an 11-game point streak for Bridgeport, who quickly turned its season around. The team struggled to score goals in the overtime games, tallying just three goals in 120 minutes of regulation time, but went on to score 31 goals in the final six games of the streak, averaging well over five goals per game. This directly coincides with the day that Mike Ianniello was hired.
Born in Bridgeport
The American Hockey League is billed as the “primary developmental league” for the NHL and the Sound Tigers lived up to the billing in 2015-16. Five players who played for Bridgeport made their NHL debuts this past season: J.F. Berube, Adam Pelech, Christopher Gibson, Ryan Pulock and Alan Quine all suited up for the Islanders during the year. Four other players who played in Bridgeport this year played with the Islanders, but the aforementioned five some all had major contributions to the Islanders this year.
· Berube won three games and played a key role with Jaroslav Halak out of the lineup. He is currently serving as the backup to Thomas Greiss.
· Adam Pelech had two assists in nine games before sustaining a nearly season-ending injury. He is still working himself into game shape but remains on the Islanders playoff roster.
· Christopher Gibson won his first and only game for the Islanders on April 5, but it proved to be one of the biggest wins for the Islanders this season. Gibson made 29 saves in the game including several monster stops in overtime, including this one on Evgeny Kuznetsov, to help the Islanders clinch a playoff spot.
· Ryan Pulock scored his first career goal on March 17 in Nashville and has helped the Islanders on their playoff run, scoring a goal and adding two assists in four playoff games.
· Last but not least is Alan Quine, who was called up on April 8 and hasn’t been back since (well technically he was sent down for two days but never mind that). Quine scored his first NHL goal a day later, short-handed, against the Buffalo Sabres. He has five points in eight playoff games, none bigger than his only goal of the playoffs, a double OT winner against the Panthers in Game 5.
Although the season did not end the way the Sound Tigers wanted it to, there is plenty to look forward to in 2016-17. There will be returning names, but also plenty of new faces next season, but the Islanders and Missouri Mavericks still have tons of former Sound Tigers on their roster making a playoff push. So while the season might be over for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the season for the Sound Tigers’ players is not.